Monday, November 03, 2008

A Special Author Interview with Linda Wisniewski


Today I'm happy to share another featured author interview, with debut author Linda Wisniewski. This is Linda's first stop on her virtual blog tour, sponsored by WOW-Women on Writing.

Linda was born and raised during the 1950s and 60s in a Polish Catholic neighborhood in upstate New York, the setting for most of her memoir, Off Kilter. She attended college in Buffalo, NY and grad school in Pennsylvania for library science. She was a librarian and independent information researcher in the pharmaceutical industry before turning to writing full time.

Linda, I'm so glad I can be part of your blog tour! When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

When I was little, I had a blue diary with a lock and key. In elementary school, I won a loaf of bread in an essay contest! That was enough incentive for me to keep writing, but up until about ten years ago, only in my journal. Around 1998, I discovered two wonderful books: "Writing from Life" by Susan Wittig Albert, and "Writing as a Way of Healing" by Louise DeSalvo. Filled with exercises and ideas I could use to understand my past through writing, they set me on the path to memoir, the genre I most love to write (and read!)

Memoirs hold a special fascination for me as well. Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

Off Kilter, which came out this year, is my first book. It started from an essay I wrote called 'My Body, My Self,' which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2003. In it, I compared my scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, to the other 'off kilter' elements of my life. Like most women, my body image is one of the issues I've faced. The second is my relationship with my mother, who was emotionally abused and despite my best efforts throughout the 1970s and '80s, refused to be 'liberated.' Finally, my Polish American heritage, with its embarrassing Polish jokes and anti-Semitic history, is balanced out by a rich musical and literary culture, most notably for me, the Nobel prize winning poet, Wislawa Szymborska. I started out examining these three areas where I felt my life was 'off kilter' and through writing about them, learned what to accept and what to change to create a full, balanced life.

This sounds like a wonderfully complex, rich story. I can't wait to read it! What kinds of books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite author?

Memoir, of course, are my favorites, followed by 'cozy' mysteries and contemporary novels. Some of my favorite memoirists are Patricia Hampl, Louise DeSalvo and Nancy Mairs, and I discover new ones almost every week.In the mystery genre, I read everything by Susan Wittig Albert, Kathy Reichs (okay, not so 'cozy' - her books are the basis for the Bones TV show), Maggie Sefton, Elizabeth George and Julia Spencer Fleming, who writes about the Adirondack Mountains where I was born.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

Deciding where to start is probably the most difficult for anyone, professional writer or not. Just getting my seat in the chair, my fingers on the keyboard or pencil, is the hardest part by far. Perhaps it's what one of my teachers calls 'fear of the unknown,' that terror that maybe we really have nothing to say. In less than an hour, the words fly from my head to the page, and I wonder why I spent all that time checking emails and news sites instead of writing! As I speak at conferences and in classes, I am thrilled by the people who are every day deciding to put their own stories on paper, whether for themselves, their grandchildren or for publication. It's great to be a part of such a great creative movement. Their questions and comments energize me to keep doing what I love - writing about life.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

A long walk in the park recharges me every day. I also love to practice yoga; it's great for my scoliosis and my anxiety level! And I'm a new and avid quilter. So far, I've made four baby quilts for my nephews' kids. Oh...and traveling with my retired scientist husband, now that our son is a college freshman.

Well, it sounds as though you definitely have enough to keep you busy! When you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?

I always start a first draft in longhand. Call me superstitious, but I believe there is something mystical and magical about moving that pen across the page that kicks my left brain into gear. Ideas that seem to come 'through' me rather than 'from' me arrive most often in longhand. A day or a week later, when I'm ready to revise, I type that first draft into the computer, often editing as I go.

Linda, thanks so much for being here today. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

I'd like to invite everyone to my website, http://www.lindawis.com/, and my publisher's site, www.pearlsong.com/offkilter.htm, for more about me and Off Kilter. And I'd like to add that I'm co-editor of the net's largest book review site by, for and about women, Story Circle Book Reviews, http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/. Come give us a look!

Thanks, Allie!

And thanks to both Linda and WOW for arranging this blog tour visit. Enjoy the rest of your Monday!

5 comments:

Marilyn said...

I enjoyed "Off Kilter" very much and wrote a review on my own blog, http://marilyfe.blogspot.com/. Linda has been a very supportive facilitator in our women's writers' group and it has been a pleasure to know her. I enjoyed this first installment of her blog tour and learned a bit more about her this way. Thank you for hosting her!

Mom said...

Really enjoyed today's interview. I like memoirs. I'll have to put "Off Kilter" on my "books to read" list.

How was your book signing Sat.?

By the way, our former neighbor just finished "One Night in Boston," and thought it was wonderful!

off kilter said...

Thanks for your review, Marilyn, and for stopping by here! It's great to see your 'face...'

It's fun to be on a book tour in my own home!

Enjoy the rest of the day, ladies, and everyone reading this, feel free to ask me questions today!

Angela said...

What a wonderful interview! Thanks Allie and Linda :o)

I'm always interested to hear how writers get their start. Linda, that must have been an extra tasty loaf of bread you won! It's great to be recognized--it makes the prize that much sweeter.

I also find it interesting that you write in longhand to start out with. I used to do that, but I write sooooo slow that I have to use a keyboard. I bet the longhand helps you stay away from computer distractions, though. ;)

This is cool! I learn something new about you every day.

Hugs,

Angela

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